National Poetry Month: Recommendations in Children's Literature
By Emma Rogers, Rosie Pinder and Aimee Haldron
April is National Poetry Month – the celebration of poetry as a rhythmic art and a way to express one’s thoughts and emotions. National Poetry Month was created by the Academy of American Poets, a non-profit organisation that promotes poets and poetry, in 1996 to raise awareness of a genre that is less explored in literature and encourage people to practise poetry in daily life. With poetry that ranges from haikus to rap and from The Mahabharata to epic poems, there is a lot to explore. So, here are some of our favourite poetry books in children’s literature.
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Perhaps one of the best-known poetry collections, Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl was originally published in 1982 as a parody of traditional folk tales. Six well-known children’s fairy tales, including Cinderella and The Three Little Pigs, are reinterpreted with surprise endings in these funny nursery rhymes. Revolting Rhymes was also adapted to the screen in 2016, narrated by Dominic West and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Caribbean Dozen: Poems from Thirteen Caribbean Poets ed. by John Agard and Grace Nichols
John Agard and Grace Nichols, both well-known writers and performers of poetry, compiled a book of poems featuring their own work alongside eleven other poets including Valerie Bloom and Marc Matthews. With over fifty poems, this collection has something for every child with the amazing sounds, sights and smells of Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas and themes of joy, sadness and laughter. This is a great collection for children to read at home or at school.
Slam! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, chosen by Nikita Gill
This anthology is the perfect introduction to and celebration of modern spoken word, or Slam and contains poetry for readers of twelve years or more, proving that all kinds of poetry are valuable and exciting. With the work of well-known poets showcased alongside emerging talent, the diverse voices in this anthology will guide you through a range of emotions and subject matter. There are even little bios from each poet, telling you about their work and giving advice for Slam performances to encourage children to try performance poetry themselves.
Joyful, Joyful: Stories Celebrating Black Voices, curated by Dapo Adeola
Focused on celebrating and uplifting Black creative voices, this collection of poems, illustrations and lyrical short stories aimed at readers of eight years or more, is a fantastic and powerful read. Curated by the hugely successful children’s illustrator Dapo Adeola, this colour-illustrated volume is packed with both laughter and important messages, showcasing the talent of Black writers and illustrators from all over the world.
The Big Amazing Poetry Book, chosen by Gaby Morgan and illustrated by Chris Riddell
A brilliant introduction to fifty-two different poets – one for every week of the year. This beautiful collection includes all different styles of poetry including ballads, tongue twisters and raps on a variety of topics such as seasons, animals and much more. Perfect for young poetry fans, it includes a biography to showcase each poet and contains the works of Valerie Bloom, Nikita Gill and Joseph Coelho to name just a few.
Heard it in the Playground by Allan Ahlberg
Originally published in 1991, this book by the classic children’s author Allan Ahlberg has everything that children love about poetry – beautifully silly rhymes and playful poetry. This timeless collection of poetry has been making children laugh for decades now. The perfect companion to introduce poetry to primary school children, it’s guaranteed to have them laughing and enjoying poetry in equal measure.
Courage in a Poem by Various Authors and Illustrators
Voted for The Guardian’s Best Children’s Book in 2022, this collection of poetry encourages children to take joy and pride in their identities. From body positivity to celebrating heritage and individuality, this book has everything to inspire young minds. Vibrant and beautiful illustrations accompany the poems to emphasise the beauty that can be found in having courage in yourself. Including powerful poetry from Elizabeth Acevedo and Jay Hulme amongst others, this poetry book is for everyone and not just for kids.
Dinosaur Poems, compiled by Paul Cookson
This collection is just so fun that we had to include it. With various anthologies – all dinosaur themed – this book contains a hilarious range of poems for children aged five years or more to rap, rhyme and read aloud. It’s a great, playful introduction to poetry for younger readers and also supports the school curriculum with a matching Teacher Resource Book available that contains activities based on the poems.